Facebook For The Dead

Facebook can be a fantastic thing. It’s a way to connect with long-lost friends and relatives. It’s a way to keep abreast of the world’s news. It’s a way to get in touch with business associates or useful contacts. It’s also a way to be remembered after, even if that was never the intention.

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Facebook delights in showing people their memories from the previous years. With the click of a mouse, it is possible to find out what you were doing (on Facebook) up to eight years ago – and sometimes that’s a fun thing to do. But some Facebook users are complaining that it is also dredging up some pretty upsetting memories too, showing them deceased relatives or pets, or showing them when they were in an unhappy place in their lives. And it’s not making them happy now.

The thing is, this kind of memory reminder – if there is such a thing – is not the only problem associated with Facebook. People with Facebook accounts will die. Of course they will. But there is no ‘magic button’, no algorithm that alerts Facebook of this and shuts down the account. It just remains there, empty of life. Although some accounts of the deceased do actually become a tribute and memorial to them. Their friends and family continue to post to it, sharing things they think their loved ones would enjoy, and writing messages. It is a kind of grieving process, and for many it really does work. The page can even be memorialised (although it is important for users to ensure their passwords are written in their wills if they want this to happen), meaning that the deceased person won’t appear in anyone’s feed suggesting that they become friends and so on.

But with around 8,000 Facebook users dying each day, what is really going to become of all of those accounts and memories? Is a Facebook account going to become the futuristic equivalent of photographs and candles?

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Digital identities that continue to exist after we ourselves have passed away are troubling to some people. And for those who are searching for someone specific on Facebook only to find them, attempt to engage them in conversation, and then discover they have passed away – or never discover it and think that they are being ignored – it can be disheartening indeed. At least when a page has been memorialised it is immediately obvious. When it hasn’t, there can be some upsetting confusion. 

close down a deceased’s social media accounts

How do I close down the deceased's social media accounts?

The tricky subject of what happens to our social media accounts has, unsurprisingly, only become an issue over the last few years.  Although it is now widely recognised that individuals are likely to leave digital legacies as well as physical assets, there is as yet no law to govern what happens to them. In response, many social media and e-commerce platforms have introduced their own guidelines as to the procedure for closing down the account of a deceased person, as outlined in a recent "This is Money" article. Facebook Facebook has introduced a facility whereby a person can nominate a legacy contact who can make changes to their account after they've gone. This means that they can legitimately post notification of the death, update profile pictures and respond to friend requests.  If preferred however, the legacy contact may just be given authorisation to close down the account. Twitter To close down a Twitter account, the deceased's username and a copy of the death certificate must be supplied.  The person requesting the closure must also supply further details including their own name, contact information and relationship to the deceased. Gmail Google requires details including the name, postal and email address of the person seeking to close the account, along with a suitable form of ID. The Gmail address or Google username of the deceased, along with a copy of the death certificate, must also be supplied. iTunes Unfortunately, an iTunes account cannot be edited or deleted at this time, unless the deceased noted down their Apple ID and password.        

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What will happen to my Facebook page after I die?

Currently, when a person dies, Facebook’s policy states that it will in effect take over that person’s page as soon as the death is reported to the organisation.   It blocks the account so that although the page remains, it cannot be added to or amended by anyone else.
Designated individuals are only able to gain access to the relevant Facebook account data (including photographs) if the deceased gave specific written instructions to this effect before they died or if police officials request it.
These restrictions have angered many individuals who are currently campaigning for specific guidelines to be introduced whereby a friend or relative of the deceased is able to act as “social media representative”, taking over and running or closing down their social media accounts including Facebook and Twitter as they see fit. In this way, vital memories in the form of photographs and records of personal thoughts can be preserved, which could help loved ones during this difficult and emotional period. Social media can act as a tool to immortalise those who have left us and as such, these keepsakes should never be lost.

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